The passage of the federal Fair Housing Act in 1968 provided a right to fair housing to large segments of the American population. Protected classes under the Fair Housing Act include race, ethnicity, national origin, sex, religion, familial status, and disability. Along with state-law equivalents and other federal laws such as the Americans With Disabilities Act, the Fair Housing Act imposes significant liability on local governments and landowners that do not comply with its provisions.
The Fair Housing Act imposes an obligation on local governments to ensure that zoning and other laws do not restrict members of protected classes from obtaining housing. Many types of zoning regulations, from prohibitions on multi-family housing to restrictions on group homes for people with disabilities, have been found to run afoul of this obligation. Local governments similarly have an obligation to provide services on an equal basis. For those local governments that violate the Fair Housing Act, the law provides for the recovery of damages and attorneys’ fees.
Similarly, the Fair Housing Act requires landlords and other private actors, such as real estate brokers and lenders, to comply with certain obligations. While it is widely understood that landlords cannot, for example, reject applicants based on protected characteristics, fair housing law continues to develop in response to new situations. Questions regarding modification of units, service animals, and other matters arise frequently.
Otten Johnson’s attorneys have special expertise in fair housing matters. Specifically, we have years of experience dealing with the disability discrimination provisions of the Fair Housing Act, and we have counseled many clients in matters involving local government approvals or denials of Fair Housing Act-protected land uses. In addition to working with clients on these matters, our attorneys routinely speak and publish on fair housing topics.
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